May 8, 2013

BELGIUM: A Train Carrying Toxic Chemicals Derails And Catches Fire, Killing One And Forcing Hundreds To Flee Their Homes As Deadly Fumes Spread

Sky news
written by Staff
Sunday May 5, 2013

One person has died and 17 others have been injured after a train carrying highly toxic chemicals derailed in Belgium, causing a major fire.

The accident and blaze prompted authorities to evacuate nearly 300 people from their homes.

Jan Briers, governor of eastern Flanders, said there were two dead and 14 injured, but authorities later announced one person had been killed and 17 were being treated in hospital.

Some of the injured were people living well away from the scene of the accident. Interior Minister Joelle Milquet blamed toxic fumes from the highly flammable liquid chemicals.

The accident happened at around 2am local time, between the towns of Schellebelle and Wetteren, on the Belgian railway network.

Six of the train's 13 cars derailed and two were thrown on to their side by the force of derailment. The blaze led to a series of explosions in the railway cars.

Fire then spread over hundreds of yards, prompting authorities to evacuate residents living more than 500 yards from the site of the accident.

But Ms Milquet said toxic fumes reached much further through the drainage system. "There is a problem of poisoning linked to the smoke,” she said.

"But there is also another reaction, since some of the chemical product went into the drains and caused a kind of chemical reaction with gases that are toxic and escaped into certain streets beyond the perimeter that had already been evacuated due to the fire."

Firefighters decided to let the cars burn out in a controlled manner as water could have released further toxic chemicals.

The causes of the accident remained unclear. The cars derailed as the train changed tracks and observers said it might have been travelling too fast.

The train came from the Netherlands and was bound for Ghent's seaport, Gent-Zeehaven.

Train services were disrupted and problems were expected for several days, with buses laid on to transport passengers.

Two similar accidents involving trains carrying tanks of toxic products occurred in Belgium in May 2012.

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